Navigating your way from college into your first job as a nurse can sometimes be confusing. We asked recent nursing school graduate, Ryan Bannan, RN, to share his tips for ensuring a smooth transition. Bannan is the immediate past president of the National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA) and a participant of the New Grad Residency Program for the Intensive Care Unit at DeKalb Medical Center in Atlanta, Ga.
NN: How did being the NSNA president help prepare you for being a nurse?
First, NSNA provides a space to learn how to be assertive, and offers a venue to think more critically and objectively about ethical issues. That allows us to be better prepared for addressing dilemmas as we experience them in the clinical setting.
Secondly, it teaches us how to serve on boards. Serving on the board of NSNA at any level provides students with a head start on professional development. The experiential education provided by NSNA has taught me things that I may have never been able to learn at any other level of the academic progression. My ability to contribute to hospital committees in my work place has already provided an excellent return on the investment, which was required within NSNA.
Lastly, being a nurse is an incredibly dynamic and demanding role. We are healthcare practitioners’ yes, but also we are educators, advocates, and coordinators for patient care. Our job is to coordinate and delegate in ways that are essential for the preservation of life.
NN: What are the three most important things that you’ve learned in your first year as a nurse?
I think concepts of self-care, conflict resolution, and developing a mindset of lifelong learning will continue to be some of the most important principles I focus on as well as developing positive habits which serve as the foundation for my nursing career.
NN: How did you find your current position? What do you think set you apart during the interview process?
I found my current position through my final semester-long clinical rotation. I had six weeks to figure out if that environment and culture was a good fit for my personality, goals and learning style. In the end, I chose it because I saw a striking combination of things like rapport, flexibility, teamwork, accountability, and professionalism among my co-workers and administrative leadership. The thing that set me apart during my interview process was my ability to "play well with others." That characteristic has opened more doors for me than any other piece of knowledge, skill, ability or credential.
NN: What surprised you the most during your first few months as a nurse?
Nursing is a great profession because it is a skill set that translates to any geography in any economy. However, coming out of school, I only thought of that in terms of bedside nursing and direct patient care. What I didn't realize was the huge amount of opportunity that exists for nurses who want to work in other areas: population health, as an administrative leader, in the academic world, policy making or even as a friendly neighbor.
NN: What was the most valuable class you took in college?
One class I think about often is an animal behavior class because of how it validated an assessment of behavior. In nursing we sometimtes can come across people who say one thing but do another. This class helped me develop an eye for how people are acting versus what they are saying.
NN: What was the most helpful advice you received when beginning your career?
Try to enjoy it. There's a culture out there that talks a lot about finding your passion, doing what you love and following your dreams.
NN: What are the three most important things you think student nurses and new nurses need to know?
- Focus on developing positive self-care habits and identifying strategies for coping with stress.
- It gets easier and more enjoyable the more you learn. Stick with it, you're a hugely important part of our community.
- Healthcare is moving out of the hospital and into the community, so it's important to get out and explore new opportunities to practice with an open mind.